Don't look now but the Philadelphia Eagles defense has elevated it's game and has been playing some of the better football of any team across the league over the past two months.
For the past eight weeks - half of an NFL season - the Eagles have yielded 21 or fewer points per game. At first glance that fact may not seem as impressive as it is when shown under the light of the fact that the league average offensive output is 23.3 points per game.
That level of dominance is a far cry from where this defense was through the first four weeks of the season when Billy Davis and his players were taking on criticism from all angles.
Now with only four games remaining in the first season of a systematic overhaul from a 4-3 ot a 3-4, Davis has his troops ranked a respectable 16th in the league in points allowed per game, with an average of 23.4.
It's certainly a credit to both the players and the scheme that the Eagles have been able to figure it out so early in a unit-wide rebuild process.
"Right now you aren't looking at my defense, you're looking at the Philadelphia Eagles defense," Davis explained while crediting his assistants Tuesday morning at the Novacare Complex. "You're looking at our staff and personnel group, we built this playbook. It was built through a collection from scratch from a great group of position coaches and we've named things the way we want to name it.
"From there we have built to our players strengths and weaknesses as we as a group see what they can do and can't do well. As a collective staff we choose what defenses we are going to call, where we're going to call them. We've collectively done that and the personnel department has done a great job of feeding us players."
One of those players brought in by the personnel department is linebacker Connor Barwin.
Barwin has stepped in as a leader almost immediately since signing as a free agent in the offseason and posted 46 tackles, one forced fumble, one interception and two sacks through the first twelve games.
"Connor makes the whole scheme really go," Davis said of Barwin's contribution to the defense as a whole. "I move him around all multiple spots. He's outside, he's inside, outside on the left, outside on the right, he's over the guard, we move him around as much as anyone.
"His position is called the Jack, the Jack of all trades. We have different techniques that we use with him. He's great at picking it up and he wears a lot of hats."
Davis frequently emphasizes the insignificance of the sack statistic because it isn't always the player credited with the sack that disrupted the quarterback to cause the sack to occur in the first place. That seems to be a philosophy that Barwin has bought into.
"He doesn't get a lot of rushes as he would like, but Connor does a great job of leading this defense. It's unselfish on his part. He'd love to do more rushing than he is and get more sacks. But he's dropping in coverage and never seems to worry about it."
Barwin's versatility has been critical to the success of the Eagles transformation from 4-3 to a 3-4 front because of his experience in both schemes during his career.
"I think whenever you have a new defense," Barwin said. "I've been a part of two that have worked and there's always an eagerness to learn what succeeds. It's across the board, the front three have continued to improve and they've played well almost from the start of the year and you can say the same thing about the guys in the back end."
As the Eagles defense has gained traction, they have done it without the emergence of a star player really stepping to the forefront, rather a group of workmanlike players buying into the scheme and the system. Few players have exemplified that more than Barwin.
"We were really excited about getting Connor signed," Davis pointed out. "He's been everything that we thought he would be. From a leadership standpoint, to his play on Sunday and his versatility, we couldn't be happier."
Matt Lombardo is the Editor-In-Chief of Eagledelphia and also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.